Marketing Compliance —What to Consider When Rolling Out a Global Email Program

Marketing compliance is a hot topic nowadays, taking many marketers into new and unchartered territory. If you’re rolling out a global campaign, maintaining marketing compliance is a matter of not only good behavior, but also serious dollars and cents. On one hand, there’s legal compliance — laws and legislation intended to protect consumers from unfair marketing activities. While those are relatively straightforward, the trickier side of marketing compliance includes the rest of the ecosystem — Internet service providers (ISPs), short-message service (SMS) gateways, and others.

Typically, the standards required by ISPs and email-inbox providers are more stringent than what the law requires. ISPs have their own business objectives and are under no obligation to ensure messaging reaches its intended recipients. Unlike the phone company, which is under contract to effectively transmit data over the lines, ISPs are not. It is the responsibility of the sender to use the infrastructure respectfully and in line with the provider’s wishes. When marketers fail to comply with the ecosystem’s compliance requirements, they place at risk their ability to reach valuable customers. No fear! Following are four strategies to help you ensure your global email program is both successful and compliant.

1. Ensure Timely and Reliable Delivery by Sending Engaging Content.
Before thinking about why engagement matters, it’s important to understand the monetization structure of inbox providers. Why do they offer their services for free when it costs them money in terms of infrastructure, support, and more? In exchange for a free inbox, email-inbox providers collect information about users, which helps them create more effective advertising. When marketers send messages that resonate, providers show those messages to intended recipients simply because their business interests are aligned with those of the marketers.

By contrast, marketers who send messages that are not well-received pay a price. Providers notice, and delivery of that marketer’s email is deprioritized for all its recipients. To ensure timely and reliable delivery of your emails and marketing messages, send mail that you know will be engaging content for your recipients. One of the easiest ways to do this is by attaining permission from users to receive your messaging. If you can set and meet expectations with intended recipients with regard to your messaging, and get permission from them to send it — inbox providers stay happy.

2. Test Your Email Frequently.
Take small cohorts on your list and test different types of content. Try different subject lines and designs to learn which combination results in the most opens and click-throughs to your landing pages. When you find the right combination, roll out those changes to the rest of your list. Remember to segment carefully to boost the chances that your recipients will actually engage with that mail. This is important because, if recipients regularly don’t engage with your email, email providers will prioritize more engaging emails above yours, meaning the message you worked so hard to develop may automatically end up in recipients’ spam folders. But, if you test, segment, and optimize to meet recipients’ expectations, then you’ve come a long way toward ensuring that you can continue to reliably use your current email infrastructure to reach your most engaged recipients.

3. Understand the Global Consequences of Messaging.
In general, what works well for Gmail tends to work well everywhere else. However, if you intend to send marketing messages outside of the United States, it pays to understand the impact, if any, your messaging may have on the receiving end. Particularly with foreign countries, learn the lay of the land and identify those things that will work well for you — as well as things that may not translate as intended.

Here’s a great example. Many marketers today are intensely interested in what’s happening in China because the market there is growing quickly with new wealth and infrastructure available to send messaging through China. However, the Gmails of China are government-controlled industries, unlike those in the United States. While you’re sending messages that seem perfectly innocent (about athletic gear or basketball shoes, for example), China views it much differently. Rather than selling sneakers, China sees you selling ideas around economic self-determinism. They view your message as promoting anti-authoritarianism and individualism. Oftentimes, what we believe would be easily delivered is very difficult to deliver in China. As a result, marketing expectations fail.

4. Understand the Legality of Marketing Compliance
Finally, from a legal perspective, marketing compliance is relatively straightforward and well-known. Regardless, you should look for confident legal counsel to help answer questions regarding the legality of what you intend to do with your customer data. Compliance varies quite a bit from one geolocation to another. In the United States, for example, requirements tend to be lax in comparison to other countries. Nevertheless, while it’s generally impossible to know where your target audience is located or the level of compliance required, it’s a good idea when gathering recipients to try to identify, in a broad sense, where they are located to ensure you adhere to compliance guidelines.

In Sum
The key to rolling out a successful global email program is engagement. As long as the inbox providers believe that users find your marketing messages to be interesting, useful, or important to them in some personal way, they will continue to consistently and reliably deliver them to your audience. Invest time in testing to determine what engaging email looks like to your recipients, understand both global and legal realities surrounding your campaign, and watch your marketing program succeed in the way that you want.